Posted by: Ele Quigan | March 17, 2014

The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri

Reading a full book on a flight and corresponding trip can be amazing. You’re going on two journeys really, the one in your head, plus the “real” one as well.

It’s always a bit exhausting, as you arrive often more tired than usual, sometimes a bit upset or off kilter depending on what you’d just been reading, and this is exactly how I felt after this.

We were heading to Stockholm for a festival, 3 of us, flying cheaply which of course means your airport is 100 km from your real destination. From airport to flight to hotel, probably at least 3-4hrs reading, which these days is just on what I need to get through a book without speed reading.

After banning the iPhone from bed it’s been great to get back into it. Admittedly reviews are piling up (this one’s a month old), and choices always running slightly thin.
This is from the booker shortlist, typically interesting, sad, and across an interesting period of Indian history.

I don’t know too much about the background, or sense of where and when a lot of the books content started, but it left me with a sense of loss and displacement and feeling very far from home.

With a mixture of dislike but understanding for the main protagonists, they were human in a way that you don’t normally see, but also with their own heroics that at times made complete sense, and then no sense at all.

The politics were at least interesting when framed against the current Ukraine crisis, communists deciding the only way forward was for more violent action, terrorist attacks – and then of course found out.

The differences between life in the US and India are gently displayed in the book. Half-way through, the main protagonist returns home, to a world of colour and bright, smells and tastes across food, water and air; but also a profound sense of loss, and feeling that while he has moved on from what he once was, there are tugs and pulls trying to push him back, take shape in the old form. Say and do the old things.

I know that feeling. By jumping far from home and the life you know you grow and change, but every visit back you feel stuck in the middle. No longer belonging or being as one place, but some bizarre cross between the two.

The book is beautifully written, I think reading it in one sitting helped. The stark contrasts between characters and backgrounds and time slowly sifting through behind it all made for a moving experience.

While the end or at least the single thread throughout wasn’t a surprise, but it did leave a lot unanswered. That’s a good thing I guess?



  1. I liked your description of returning, and the difference between the two cultures and ways of life. It really is a different world.

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